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Williamstown Declines to Say Whether U.S. Attorney Sought Pot Agreement

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williamstown's town manager Tuesday declined to comment on whether the town had been subpoenaed for records related to the host community agreement it made with a marijuana retailer that opened earlier this year.
 
Last week, the Boston Globe reported that U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has subpoenaed records in at least six communities, including Great Barrington, the home of Berkshire County's first pot shop opened since recreational marijuana was legalized in the commonwealth.
 
"On the advice of counsel, 'We are not in a position to confirm or deny receipt of a subpoena. Such information may be available from the US Attorney’s office,' " Williamstown Town Manager Jason Hoch wrote in reply to an email seeking comment.
 
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said her office could neither confirm nor deny that any subpoenas had been issued or that an investigation is taking place.
 
The Globe article, dated Monday, Nov. 4, on the paper's online edition, references charges made against the mayor of Fall River, who is accused of, "pressuring four marijuana businesses to pay $575,000 in cash bribes in exchange for city approval."
 
The Fall River mayor has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
 
A member of the state's Cannabis Control Commission told the Globe, "I receive complaints almost every day that the process is out of control."
 
The enabling legislation that created the CCC allows municipalities to require marijuana retailers pay a 3 percent local tax on their annual revenue.
 
"But many communities have side-stepped those limits, seeking additional money while arguing the law doesn't technically prohibit them from requiring separate fees or mandatory 'donations' to local nonprofits in exchange for local approval," the Globe article says. "The payments typically total tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars."
 
According to a draft host community agreement that Hoch presented to the Williamstown Select Board last January, Silver Therapeutics, which operates in the Colonial Plaza on Main Street (Route 2) would pay the town 3 percent of its gross annual revenue for the five-year term of the agreement.
 
Silver Therapeutics also would be required to make a donation of no less than $5,000 per year to a local non-profit "for the purposes of  drug abuse prevention/treatment/education programs."
 
The 3 percent local tax is intended to mitigate the financial impact on the town of hosting a retail pot business, according to the draft of the agreement.
 
"The Town anticipates that, as a result of the Company’s operation of the Establishment, the Town will incur additional expenses and impacts upon its road system, law enforcement, inspectional services, permitting services, administrative services and public health services, in addition to potential additional unforeseen impacts upon the Town," the draft agreement reads.
 
The Select Board did not vote on or sign the host community agreement. The town manager executed the agreement on behalf of the town at some point after the board's review at its Feb. 12, 2019, meeting.
 
The HCA is a requirement for final licensing by the Cannabis Control Commission.
 
Silver Therapeutics opened for business on April 24 of this year.

Tags: pot,   us attorney,   

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Photech Mill Housing Project Could Break Ground in Spring

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Elton Ogden of Berkshire Housing addresses the Select Board on Monday evening.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The former Photech mill building on Cole Avenue could be used for housing as early as summer 2021.
 
On Monday, the Select Board heard from the president and CEO of Berkshire Housing Development Corp., who said the Pittsfield-based non-profit was close to finalizing funding for the $16 million project that will utilize the existing mill building and build townhouses at 330 Cole Ave., creating 41 units of affordable housing.
 
"Last week, we had a call with the state folks who are behind tax credits and soft debt, and we mutually agreed to try to close the deal in February or March," Elton Ogden said. "That aligns with the construction season. We have a little bit more asbestos abatement to be done … and we would anticipate about a 14-month construction schedule, which, again, would line up nicely.
 
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